Committee to Save Cooper Union Legal Fund: Update 6

With only 4 days left to our initial fundraising goal of $150,000 please donate to help Save Cooper Union!

Over 780 of us have stepped up to donate over $120,000 to the legal efforts to help save Cooper Union by forcing the Board to preserve the 150-year tradition of free tuition enshrined in the Charter.

There are still a few Art Grab Bag perks left!

Here’s the latest update on the legal effort from the Committee to Save Cooper Union:

Cooper Union is the recipient of a huge tax benefit since it does not have to pay taxes on its considerable real-estate holdings, including the Chrysler building. This property tax exemption is worth more than $19 million annually to Cooper Union.

Historically, when New York challenged Cooper Union’s tax exempt status, Cooper was able to defend it by pointing to the free tuition it offers. For example, in the 1936 New York State Court of Appeals, Cooper Union argued that it was “not acting for selfish reasons,” instead acting “for the benefit of the public … performing the functions of the State by furnishing technical education and laboratory and library facilities, [which] places it in a position like that of a governmental body.”

The Court of Appeals determined that the State legislature has the power to curtail the tax exemption. If Cooper charges tuition just like any other school, it would be very tempting for the legislature to eliminate the tax exemption entirely.

More recently, when Cooper Union wanted a zoning variance, the administration told the City Planning Commission: “the school could not solve its financial problems like other educational institutions and that increasing the student body or charging tuition were not viable options … [because] Cooper Union is committed to providing education to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it at comparable top-ranking institutions.”

In the transcript of the September 19, 2012 Cooper Union Board Meeting (available online at the Village Voice - see p. 17 of transcript) President Bharucha stated “When I first arrived I was informed by my predecessor [George Campbell] that tuition would risk the tax equivalency.”

Now, instead of taking the steps needed to preserve free tuition as outlined in the Working Group plan, the President and Board reversed their commitment and irresponsibly voted to charge tuition - putting the future of Cooper Union at risk. The loss of the tax exemption and having to pay market rates for property taxes would likely prove fatal to Cooper Union.

Let’s make this happen!

So far 575 people have contributed over $106,000 to our legal efforts, but we are still short of our $150,000 goal with only 11 days left in this campaign. Please contribute to the legal fund to help us continue fighting to Save Cooper Union.

Please consider sending an ask for donations to the Committee to Save Cooper Union’s legal fund to your own contacts and networks. Tell anyone and everyone you know that we’re coming down to the wire here and need their help to make sure Cooper Union remains free to all students! Please alert friends, family, and strangers alike to this important cause, and encourage them to get in touch with any and all questions

While you’re doing that, here’s an update on the legal action to share around:

Is Cooper Union a Commercial Enterprise or a School?

While the correct answer to that question is obvious to virtually every student, teacher, and alum of Cooper Union, it appears that’s not the case with the Board of Trustees. Last week, the Board’s new law firm, Pepper Hamilton LLP (apparently replacing Winston & Strawn, LLP), requested, on the Board’s behalf, that the NY Supreme Court’s Civil Branch transfer the Save Cooper Union lawsuit to the Commercial Division.

On Friday, Administrative Judge Hon. Sherry Klein Heitler unambiguously denied the Board of Trustees motion, writing:

“This matter does not involve ‘business dealings’ … but rather the alleged mismanagement and governance of a not-for-profit educational institution. Thus, it does not fall within the guidelines for assignment to the Commercial Division.”The Committee to Save Cooper Union’s opposition to the Board’s transfer motion includes a helpful summary of the case. The Court’s full response is also available.

The Board’s troubling tactic is symptomatic of the ongoing danger to Cooper Union. Controlling members of the board, including President Jamshed Bharucha, act as if the school is a commercial asset that they can manage and “re-invent” in any way they see fit. The Save Cooper Union lawsuit, holds them responsible to the specific intent of the Trust that formed and governs the school

Committee to Save Cooper Union Legal Fund: Update 4

New Perk: Art grab bag

Art alumni M’Liz Keefe, Bill Wolf and Carol Wolf wanted to find a creative way to encourage people to donate to the lawsuit fund to save Cooper Union—one that would draw upon the artistic energies of their fellow alumni. So they contacted some classmates from their Cooper days back in the 1980’s and gathered donations of original artworks on paper, paintings, drawings, prints, photography etc., (keeping the size no larger than 8” x 10”).

Within days they collected pledges and donations of over 100 pieces of original art for The Committee to Save Cooper Union!

Now you can acquire original artworks from highly accomplished Cooper Union artists—for a song—while you support the effort to save Cooper Union.

How does this work?

We’ve established new art perks on our Indiegogo page, so all you have to do is make a donation at the appropriate level and specify which perk you want. Your artwork will be delivered to you within four weeks after the conclusion of this Indiegogo campaign.

We will select a piece or mini-collection for you as follows:

$200 = one original work of art
$400 = three original works of art
$600 = five original works of art

The artwork will look great on your walls or make fantastic one-of-a-kind gifts.

A painting by M’Liz Keefe to be included in a grab bag

BTW, if you are an artist, architect, engineer or physicist that has an artwork or a service you’d like to donate as a fundraising “perk,” please let us know.

Our sincere thanks go out to these talented & generous artist donors:

Rick Angeloni, Art ‘84
Lisa DiPetto, A’85
Claudia Giordano Lasky, A’76
Timothy Horn, A’84
Candace Hsiao Young, A’85
Sandra Kelch, A’86
Kathleen Kucka, A’84
Sue Laurita, A’85
Lori Loebelsohn, A’82
Yvette Lucas, A’83
M’Liz Keefe, A’85
Kelly Occhiuzzo Zack, A’90
Lotte Petricone, A’85
Adam Shanosky, A’85
Suzy Sureck, A’84
Kevin Testa, A’84
Bill Wolf, A’84
Carol Wolf, A’84

Please donate to receive beautiful original art and help us Save Cooper Union!

Committee to Save Cooper Union Legal Fund: Update 3

Our campaign to save Cooper Union is off to an excellent start, and we gratefully acknowledge the over 420 supporters of a tuition-free Cooper Union who have raised over $76,000 in the initial days of this effort. We’re over half-way to our goal of $150,000! Let’s keep the momentum going forward.

In the meantime, we encourage everyone to see the movie “Ivory Tower.” It is a compelling exposé of how runaway increases in administrative costs are being funded by unsustainable levels of student debt. It includes a section focused on the situation at Cooper Union, including a revealing interview of President Bharucha. The opening weekend begins with showings this Friday, June 13th, in New York City at the Angelika theater. Director Andrew Rossi will be present and speaking at the Friday 7:45pm performance. Committee to Save Cooper Union will also be at the theater all day spreading the word about our legal effort to preserve free education at Cooper Union. Plenty of pamphlets, "Save Cooper Union" t-shirts, and buttons will be in the mix. Please tell your friends and family to come out!

On the June 5 episode of the On the Katie Show with Katie Couric, director of the documentary Ivory Tower, Andrew Rossi, discusses the cost — and value — of higher education in the United States today alongside recent Cooper Union alumna, Victoria Sobel. Victoria speaks to the challenges facing Cooper and even got a chance to plug the Committee to Save Cooper Union’s lawsuit and legal fund to preserve free education for all students at the school.

For those who didn’t catch the show, check out the complete segment below and please share it around — this is important stuff.

At 16:20 Andrew Rossi describes how the students of Cooper Union have held several direct actions and occupations to fight back against tuition at Cooper Union. Katie Couric then notes the crisis at Cooper Union is “emblematic of how universities are operating now. I know they built this big, big student center that cost millions and millions of dollars and the cost of that was passed down to students, and that’s another example of what’s happening all across the country”

Our sincere thanks go out to the new donors to our campaign and the many more who contributed to the initial funding and ongoing efforts to save Cooper Union. Let’s see if we can close out this round of funding for the lawsuit in record time! Please contribute to the Committee to Save Cooper Union Legal Fund today.

On the Katie Show, director of the documentary Ivory Tower, Andrew Rossi, discusses the cost — and value — of higher education in the United States today alongside writer Anya Kamenetz and Professor Andrew Deblanco. Couric also highlights the fight against tuition at Cooper Union with Free Cooper Union organizer and recent Cooper Union alumna, Victoria Sobel. Victoria plugs the Committee to Save Cooper Union's lawsuit and legal fund to preserve free education for all students at Cooper Union.

At 16:20 Andrew Rossi notes how the students of Cooper Union have held several direct actions and occupations to fight back against tuition at Cooper Union. Katie describes the crisis at Cooper Union as “emblematic of how universities are operating now. I know they built this big, big student center that cost millions and millions of dollars and the cost of that was passed down to students, and that’s another example of what’s happening all across the country”

Andrew Rossi at 16:58 “[Cooper Union] is the ultimate symbol for the corporatization of the university. here’s a school with a thousand students, totally free, and they decide to take out a $175 million dollar loan in order to build a building at more than one thousand dollars per square foot. That’s more than a luxury hotel.”

Katie and Victoria Sobel then go on to describe the administration’s response to these issues as “hollow words”

Our dear friend Victoria Sobel will be joining Andrew Rossi, director of Ivory Tower today on the Katie Show to talk about the documentary, student debt, The Cooper Union, Committee to Save Cooper Union, generally bring down the house, and ask the question: is college worth it?

Free education is most certainly worth it. We’re #soproud of Victoria, Ivory Tower, and everyone who contributes to making it that way.

Even Katie Couric’s on board now.

Committee to Save Cooper Union Legal Fund: Update 2


It has been a week since we launched our campaign which is already well over a third of the way funded toward our goal of $150,000. These donations large and small, and numerous offers of support we have received over the past week are testaments to the value of Cooper Union’s mission of providing free education to all students.

When he founded Cooper Union is 1859 Peter Cooper, was a renowned inventor and an industrialist, but above all a philanthropist. Cooper once said, “great wealth is a public trust” and he used his wealth to create and secure his vision that education should be “as free as air and water”

Peter Cooper fights back!

With your generous support, the Committee to Save Cooper Union is well on its way to defending Peter Cooper’s vision. We are committed to pursuing legal action against Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees and administration plans to abolish a 150 year tradition of free tuition.

Like Peter Cooper, we know that Cooper Union’s wealth comes from its community. That wealth may not be accountable in dollars and cents, but best understood and valued in the thousands of students who have marched freely through the doors of Cooper Union and emerged as great artists, architects, engineers, and contributors to society.

On May 28 we rallied and outside of the Cooper Union Foundation Building. Press and community members heard testimonials from Prof. Mike Essl, alumni Adrian Burton Jovanovic & Devin Kenny, and incoming student Claire Kleinman. Attorney Richard Emery announced our lawsuit.

Our gratitude goes out to those alumni of Cooper Union, friends, family, and acquaintances who continue to show their dedication to free education by contributing some of their own wealth (the dollars and cents kind) to our campaign. We encourage you all to continue reaching out to your fellow community members and networks to spread the news of Cooper Union and our fight to keep the school free. You can follow along on twitter, share updates on facebook, email, send letters, phone calls, or even transatlantic telegram — just like donations large and small, anything and everything helps.

“In the course of a century there will, of course be a great number of graduates of the Cooper Union and the day will surely come when they, these graduates, will rally round this institution, and if the plans I have formed can be executed in no other way they will see they are carried out” — Peter Cooper

Thank you for rallying around and protecting Cooper Union.